Spanish royal household is entering one of the greatest crises it has had to face since the coronation of Juan Carlos I in November 1975. The findings of the Swiss public prosecutor's office of irregular accounts and trust funds in tax havens, which have transferred more than 100 million dollars in the last decade, in the name of Juan Carlos I and Felipe VI, has sparked popular outrage.
In recent weeks, we have learned of new advances in the investigation around the money that the King Emeritus of Spain, Juan Carlos de Borbón, transferred in 2012 to his lover, Corinna Larsen. In total, around 65 million euros were transferred into an account under the name of Solare Investors Corporation in the Gonet y Cie banco in Nassau (Bahamas). The Swiss prosecution is investigating the origin of the money, due to the possibility of involvement in a case of international bribery, in the negotiations to build the high-speed AVE train to Mecca (promoted by the King Emeritus), in which several Spanish businesses participated. The most recently discovered evidence, according to the prosecutor Yves Bertossa’s report, is that the account is that the account from which the King Emeritus ordered the transfer to Corinna, received the amount of 100 million dollars from the Royal House of Saudi Arabia in 2008. This account was in the Swiss bank Mirabaud, in the name of the Panamanian Lucum Foundation (a typical front organisation to hide money and evade taxes), whose owner was Juan Carlos de Borbón and in whose statutes Felipe VI appears as second beneficiary. Eldiario.es carefully published the exact chronology of the facts.
After these facts came to light, ERC (Catalan Republican Left) and the Grupo Plural coalition of JxCat, Compromís, BNG and Más País (Catalan, Valencian and Galician parties and Errejón’s split from Podemos) requested a parliamentary investigation commission of Juan Carlos de Borbón. Soon after, Unidas Podemos joined the initiative presenting its own inquiry commission, alleging procedural improvements. Unidas Podemos already had a similar experience in 2018 in which the congressional board rejected the request for alleged technical reasons.
In the face of such a scandal, the Spanish royal family is moving its pawns to avoid being portrayed negatively to the people at all costs (if that is possible). The confirmation of a scandal with these characteristics is accelerating a process of the discredit and decline that the monarchy has been involved in for more than a decade, and that could result in its end. This would imply the end of the Spanish parliamentary monarchy, that is, the end of the 1978 regime. This decline in popularity has been caused by the scandals such as elephant hunting in Botswana, and the Nóos case, in which the son-in-law of the King Emeritus, Urdangarín, was convicted of corruption (Juan Carlos I was also implicated). Other scandals include: numerous viral videos of Juan Carlos praising Franco; the golden pension of nearly 200,000 euros for the King Emeritus after his abdication in which he relinquished responsibility for the state budget, as well as the nearly eight million euros that the royal household costs the people in taxes every year. More recently is King Felipe VI's awkward speech on 3 October 2017, in which he encouraged the repression of the Catalan people after the independence referendum on 1 October. However, the confirmation of the suspicions around the 100 million euros as an alleged commission for the AVE train contract to Mecca would be the biggest scandal that the royals have faced, so far.
The involvement of Felipe VI
The current King reacted quickly, and issued a statement on behalf of the royal household. In this statement, he affirms that he renounces his father's inheritance and declines the aforementioned allocation of €200,000 per year of public money. He has also acknowledged that, in March 2019 he received a letter informing him of his role as a beneficiary in the statutes of the Lucum Foundation. According to the same statement, Felipe VI sent a letter “to the relevant authorities” (without clarifying who they were) in which he claimed to be unaware that he was a beneficiary and he renounced being a part of his father's trust fund. Recently, the existence of a second trust fund has been discovered, prior to Lucum, called “Fondation Zagatka”, in the name of Juan Carlos I's cousin, Álvaro de Orleans. The Royal House's private jet trips were financed from this second trust fund. Since 2006, both the royal father and son have appeared among its list of beneficiaries according to El País (https://bit.ly/2XiyDXh). Unsurprisingly, Felipe VI did not mention anything about this second trust fund in his statement.
These events are overwhelming for the royal family, which can hardly explain their way out of one scandal before another rears its head. The monarch has refused to give explanations of the funds to The Telegraph, the newspaper that has published information of his involvement. It is not enough to publish a statement. If he had a modicum of honesty, he would submit to questions from journalists, legislators, and the population as a whole.
The statement issued by the royal family to distance itself from the scandal makes it clear that even Felipe VI is aware of the corruption of his father, a man who has never served those of us who pay his salary, but has always served the bourgeoisie, of which he is a part. In reality, the announcement does not save his son either. The journalist Ignacio Escolar states in his newspaper that: “the royal son kills the father to try to save the crown.” It is a crude attempt by Felipe VI because the entire country knows the close bond between the two monarchs that has been maintained for decades. Felipe de Borbón was educated daily and groomed for the position by Juan Carlos I. It is obvious that the son, however refined and cultured he is compared to his father, is of the same ilk. As proof of this, he has never publicly disowned his father. Even though he claims to have received the informative letter a year ago, he did not make the scandal public, nor did he renounce his inheritance or make any move that was especially convincing. Of course, he did hide the events from the whole country and only after these reports came to light did Felipe VI react – in a very hypocritical manner. Regarding the €200,000 per year of public money collected by the King Emeritus, it is not clear from the statement whether it is deducted from the total budget of the royal household (eight million), or if he takes the funds from his father to distribute among the rest of his family.
As Marx explains in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, it is context that determines what type of person leads each historical event. Countless corruption cases have been published in Spain in the last decade, many of them from previous decades. The '78 regime needed a corrupt monarchy as a central pillar, just as today it still needs a corrupt monarchy to conceal everything that has not yet been published or discovered. The Spanish capitalist system demands the worst of the human condition: lies and barbarism.
All this is exacerbated because article 56.3 of the constitution says that the King is inviolable and that he cannot be tried or accused, even if he commits a crime. Regardless of what the 1978 constitution states, it is unacceptable for the head of state of a nominally democratic country to be beyond reproach. This is one of the many aspects in which our current constitution shows its scandalously undemocratic character, for which it must be replaced by a new one that protects the working class.
In order to cleanse its image, the regime took advantage of the confinement of the population due to the coronavirus crisis and scheduled a speech by the King to the country on 18 March. While King Felipe VI was giving a subdued speech on public television (in which he avoided the issue of the corruption of the monarchy), thousands of people spontaneously went out to their balconies in all the cities of the country to protest against the monarchy in the form of a “cacerolada” (pot banging protest). This shows the masses of people that form an important base needed to fight for the republic in Spain.
Economic powers and the political right
The bourgeoisie fears the end of the monarchy as its own end. The history of the Spanish state shows that, in our country, the idea of the republic has always been coupled with the idea of revolution. That is why they fear the fall of the monarchy, as it is this which holds together the entire political regime of '78 and Spanish capitalism. The links between the Spanish monarchy and economic, political, judicial and media power are evident.
The royal family never appears in public interviews, a fact that most of the media do not report. There can be nothing more blatantly undemocratic than a public office that does not submit to even the slightest scrutiny of the bourgeois media, not to mention the entire population. The Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) stopped asking several years ago if the Spanish people preferred the monarchy or the republic as a model of the state. Perhaps they saw that the findings would be the same as the surveys carried out at the beginning of the Transition, where a majority were in favour of the republic, results which the government of Adolfo Suárez hid from public opinion. This was acknowledged by Suárez himself, confidentially, to the journalist Victoria Prego, during a television interview that was censored for years until recently released. These days, the media (with a few exceptions) have closed ranks around Felipe VI, speaking only of his father's involvement, thus trying to cleanse the face of the crown.
The investigation into the “bribes” for the AVE train to Mecca is related to ‘Operation Tandem', an inquiry into oil commission deals with Equatorial Guinea. This operation is linked to the 'Villarejo Case', on whose recordings Corinna herself appears. Recently, Corinna has also filed a complaint in the courts of London (where the immunity of the King Emeritus does not apply) against him and the former director of the CNI, Félix Sanz Roldán, for threats against her choice to break her silence.
The main media bodies, controlled by the Spanish right wing, downplay the matter, spend little time on it or blatantly lie, and have been hiding top-level information from the Spanish people. It has also been published that businessman López Madrid, director of the OHL construction company, organised a meeting attended by 'the royal father' to discuss an OHL contract in Saudi Arabia. It was also López Madrid about whom a conversation was published, in which Queen Letizia treated him amicably as her 'compi yogui' (yoga buddy). Another prominent figure in the business world, Juan Villalonga, former director of Telefónica, also appears immersed in the entire plot, having played the role of putting “his friend” Villarejo in contact with Corinna Larsen. (>El Economista).
For its part, the judiciary protects the Royal House as much as it can. On the one hand, by imprisoning or imposing excessive fines on rappers and tweeters for 'insulting the crown', which shows a total lack of freedom of expression in our country in matters regarding the royal family. Furthermore, the judiciary is doing its best to block any legal investigation against the King Emeritus, as did Judge Diego Egea with the first investigations into the transfer to Corinna Larsen’s account.
It is not surprising either, that the parties underpinning the regime have systematically blocked four attempts at investigative commissions, some of them with the approval of the judiciary. This also shows the links between the political and judicial powers and the monarchy. And so it has happened again this time. What may surprise some is that the apparently renewed PSOE of Pedro Sanchez has also participated in the blockade, adding his three votes at the table of Congress to the two of the PP and one of Vox, against the three votes he has at the Unidas Podemos table.
The role of PSOE
The republicanism of PSOE is electoral republicanism, of protests for the historical memory: in short, a nominal republicanism, not carried out in practice. Already, in the Spanish Transition, the workers' organisations (PCE and PSOE among them) had several opportunities to push for a Spanish republic, and they did not. But it is not necessary that we go back to those days to find clear signs of support for the monarchy by the PSOE. For example, for the abdication of Juan Carlos I, our moderate 1978 Constitution foresaw the need for an organic law of abdication that had to be approved in the Spanish Parliament. The law would have gone ahead anyway, since at that time the PP had an absolute majority in Congress. However, with the exception of two members, the PSOE did not have the courage to vote against, even when their vote did not compromise the abdication.
More recently, Sánchez and his supporters have shown support for the monarch in everything related to the territorial crisis in Catalonia, turning their backs on the Catalan people and their right to self-determination. Two years earlier, Pedro Sánchez presented his candidacy for the general elections of 2015 with a gigantic red-and-yellow flag on his back, escalating tensions north of the Ebro river (the Basque Country and Catalonia) but hoping to have a greater electoral return in the rest of the territory. Likewise, during Pedro Sánchez's minority government (2018-2020), before the coalition with UP, discrepancies arose due to the elimination of “aforamientos” (political immunity). While PSOE defended the elimination or reduction of the aforamiento only for political positions, UP assured that it would not support the law if it did not include the King. Remember that it was PP who, likely knowing what could happen, reinforced the aforamiento of the King Emeritus after his abdication by means of a reform of the law of the judiciary.
In the four attempted investigative commissions against the royal family, the PSOE has voted in opposition. The same ridiculous justification that Rajoy used for his brutal intervention in Catalonia, 'the law is the law', is what the leaders of PSOE use today to cover up the corruption of King Juan Carlos I during his time as Head of State. Ábalos said last week that whatever the congressional attorneys (judicial advisers to the lower house) said would be done. However, the congressional lawyers have only advised against the parliamentary investigation, recognising that the politicians have the last word.
Javier Pérez Royo, Professor of Constitutional Law, explains that the inviolability of the King (during his years as Head of State) only affects legal investigations, but not parliamentary investigations or those of the media. However, eldiario.es has already published investigations after the abdication of Juan Carlos I, such as the one mentioned about the López Madrid meeting. In the same way, the body of congressional lawyers is directed by the Secretary General of Congress, who is chosen by the Congress Presidium, which is controlled by the PSOE. During the last attempt at an investigative commission, in 2018, the Presidium was controlled by Ana Pastor (PP). But there is no excuse this time, since it is now chaired by Meritxel Batet (PSOE). That is to say, ultimately, PSOE is only raising a scarecrow so as not to face what should rationally take precedence over any law, to reveal to its people the truth about our Head of State and the royal household. At the press conference announcing the State of Alarm [due to the coronavirus], Pedro Sánchez was asked about the latest publications on this matter. The president dedicated less than a minute to the response, in which he only said that he supports Felipe VI.
For its part, UP has done little more than demonstrate once again its powerlessness in the face of injustice, because it is in government. While trying to appear courageous, Echenique, the representative for the parliamentary group, said that they would launch an investigative commission, although the PSOE was not going to support it. Irene Montero replied to her comrade saying ambiguously that she supported “the initiative of the parties” to order the commission, speaking in the plural to avoid saying clearly that Podemos should be the spearhead against the decrepit Spanish monarchy. Our minister ended by saying that “ultimately they would support what the government decided.” This half-hearted protest is not the first time our ministers have turned their backs on the working class. Many of us felt pain and anger when we saw them applaud the monarch at the opening of the legislature. Not because of sentimentality, but because it represents an obvious humiliation for our class.
Our national leaders have not been very successful in their republican policies to date. Following the rejection of the commission of investigation in the summer of 2018, our leaders had the brilliant idea to send a public letter to the King Emeritus asking him to willingly submit to questions from members of parliament. This extremely naive behaviour is a sign of weakness and of a conciliatory attitude towards the bourgeoisie. Much has changed from the discourse of taking heaven by storm, to the point of asking the masters of heaven to be kind and hand it over to us. It is easy to imagine the monarch laughing as he read the letter. Equally ineffective were the withdrawal of busts and pictures of the King in the early days of the municipal governments of Podemos. The people are not deceived by removing a bust, because the monarch is still on his throne.
Build a republican and socialist alternative
In recent years, the republican movement has gained strength. While years ago the demonstrations for the republic seemed to be a “folkloric” matter on the left, today more and more sectors of the population have lost their fear of taking a tricolour republican flag to go out on the street to protest. Numerous self-organised consultations on whether Spain should be monarchy or republic have proliferated in the working-class neighbourhoods of the main cities and public universities throughout the country.
On 9 May, a day of simultaneous consultations has been convened in all possible neighbourhoods, educational centres, and workplaces (this date may be postponed due to the coronavirus crisis). Platforms like Málaga Republicana will organise this day to achieve maximum popular participation and in turn generate the necessary debate of what should be the republic that we want to fight for, which can give a qualitative leap to the labour movement in our country.
We demand the expropriation of the monarchy's properties, which are an accumulation of theft from the people that has gone on for decades and centuries, a legacy the royal family inherited from Franco. It is necessary to say the working class is fed up with the regime of '78 and channel their frustration positively: towards the construction of the socialist Third Republic of the workers!